Designing Language Courses

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Grave, K., (2000), Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers,Heinle, Cengage Learning Assessing Needs When conducting needs assessment (needs analysis) four key points should be taken into consideration: 1. 2. 3. 4. Role of the needs The process of needs assessment How (ways) needs should be assessed When they should be assessed

Role of Needs Assessment in the Development of a Course Needs analysis is an ongoing and cyclical process which integrates in itself several sub-processes: collecting data about the learners preferences and needs, interpreting the data and modifying the curriculum of the course upon those interpretations. This process is very productive in terms of helpingvery much the learners to feel free in reflecting on whatever they learn, in recognizing their own needs, and in obtaining a sense of ownership over the whole learning process. Needs analysis is an important part in ESP, EAP and adult education courses. According to a number of scholars, needs analysis should be an integrated part of teaching. Moreover, it should not be regarded as a mere pre-teaching action. If the course developer aims at designing a course which will presumably meet its final goals and objectives, needs assessment in the course development process should be considered as something done throughout the whole teaching process. Consequently, students are supposed to express their expectations and to make partnership with teachers and their parents in the way of fulfilling their designations. Berwick (1989, p. 55) distinguishes between felt needs , as those that learners already have, and perceived needs , those that the learners need to acquire. The process of Needs Assessment As it was mentioned above needs analysis is an ongoing and cyclical process. It s a whole complex of decision making, taking actions, etc. that should always be controlled. The following cycle illustrates the very process.


Decide what information to gather and why

Evaluate the effects of the action

Decide when, from whom, and how to gather it

Act on it

Gather information

Interpret information

What Areas of Learning Does Needs Assessment Address? The first step in needs assessment is to figure out what information is to be collected from the learners. If a course is developed to meet the learners needs, there is an assumption that there should be a mismatch between the learners current language knowledge and the one that they shouldobtain at the end of the course. Consequently, it is important to gather information about both the learners current knowledge, what they expect to learn at the end of the course and how they want to be taught, i.e. about their learning preferences.

Types of Information that Can be Gathered When Assessing Needs We can collect data about: The present: 1. Who the learners are 2. The learners level of language proficiency 3. The learners level of intercultural competence

4. Their interests 5. Their learning preferences 6. Their attitudes The future: 7. The learners (or others involved) goals and expectations 8. The target contexts: situations, roles, topics, and content 9. Types of communicative skills and tasks they will perform 10. Language modalities they will use

Each of these categories should involve carefully worked out sub-questions which will come to support the major questions. Information about the present: 1. Who the learners are: their age, gender, educational background, profession, nationality. Are they a part of multiculture, or they are a representative of a single culture group? The following information will serve as a keystone for developing the further questions. 2. The learners language proficiency level: information about their language proficiency level from each skill as well as from grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and communicative skills. The answers to this question may give the course developergood hint in choosing course materials. 3. The learners level of intercultural competence: if the learners recognize sociolinguistic and sociocultural differences (in case there are any) between their native language and the target one they study. This information again might be used indeveloping materials, as well as in putting accenton the learners multi and intercultural cognition. 4. Their interest:Under this question the course designer may collect information about the topics and issues that the learners might be interested in, as well as about their personal and professional experience. 5. Their learning preferences:

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